Concrete is an incredibly useful material that has a wide range of uses. To make it, you don’t need any fancy tools or expensive materials. It’s only water, cement mix, and stones or sand. That’s it. And to do it, you also don’t need to have a cement mixer, although it can make things a lot easier.
In this guide, we’ll discover what you use concrete for, and how to get the perfect cement mix. Mixing can be done either by hand or by using a cement mixer.
What is Concrete Used For?
Concrete offers lots of benefits, which is why it’s used for many different applications. One of concrete’s greatest strengths is its strength. Few materials that are as cheap to produce can offer such strong compression capabilities.
But its strength only comes once it has set. And that’s another of concrete’s great benefits; before its setting, it’s an extremely pliable material, which means that it can fit into lots of nooks, crannies, or simply be maneuvered into a range of shapes.
We use concrete for a wide range of purposes. Of course, it’s most commonly used to make outdoor flooring. We often use concrete to make pavements, patios, even roads, as it’s a more visually pleasing alternative to asphalt. Underneath your home, the foundations are likely made from concrete too. Some buildings are constructed from concrete.
What is Concrete Made From?
There are many different forms of concrete, and each is made using different ingredients. Still, when we talk about concrete, we are usually referring to a kind of concrete that consists of three main ingredients.
The first of these ingredients is a form of cement. Nowadays, we use Portland cement as standard. This form of cement has been around since the early 1800s. It’s made from limestone. The limestone is heated to a very high temperature in a kiln. This turns the limestone into what is referred to as ‘clinker.’
This clinker is then ground down. Once it has been ground, then gypsum is added to it. While it isn’t necessary to use Portland cement to make concrete, it’s the most common form of cement that you’ll find when you go to the DIY store, and you’ll also discover that it comes in a grey version, as well as a white version.
The second ingredient used to make concrete is water. The amount of water that you’ll use to mix the concrete will depend on your purpose. The less water you use, the more durable the concrete, but this will also mean that the concrete is less permeable.
The third ingredient for concrete is an ‘aggregate.’ The type of aggregate used will again depend on what you’re mixing the cement for. For a fine cement, then usually sand is the most common aggregate to add to the mix. For a coarser cement, then you’ll mix in gravel or crushed stones.
What Do You Need to be Able to Mix Concrete?
Now that you know what concrete is made from, you’re ready to start to mix it. But before that, you have to make sure you’ve got all the essential tools and ingredients for the mix.
Firstly, you need the three ingredients that we’ve just explained are essential to creating a concrete mix.
To make your concrete mix, then you’ll need:
- Aggregates (if not included in your cement mix. It can be easier to purchase cement that already includes aggregates, such as gravel.)
Now you’ve got everything you need for the concrete mix, you’re almost ready to go. You also need to have the right tools for mixing concrete, and they are:
- A wheelbarrow (or if you’re only mixing a small amount, then a large bucket or a mixing board)
- A shovel
- A brush (make sure that it has very stiff bristles)
- A sheet of tarpaulin
- 4 Buckets
Once you’ve got all the tools and everything you need for the concrete mix, you also need to ensure that you’re kept safe during the whole procedure. And to stay safe, you’ll need the following:
- A face mask or guard for your mouth, so you don’t breathe in the cement mix
- Goggles or another form of eye protection
- Thick gloves
Once you’ve got all these things, you can move onto the next stage of the guide and begin mixing your concrete.
What is the Ideal Ratio for Mixing Concrete?
The ratio that you choose to use for making your concrete mix will depend on what you need the mixed concrete for. Usually, we determine proportions by starting with 1 part cement.
We determine sand and aggregate amounts will then in reference to the cement. Sand and aggregates will be necessary if you’re making your own cement mic.
A very common ratio that’s referred to as the C20 concrete mix is ideal for lots of jobs around the home. For example, if you’re planning on making a floor, or if you’re using the concrete for steps, then you’ll use this mix.
C20 is made from 1 part cement, 2 parts sand, and then 4 parts aggregate, whatever the aggregate is.
C30 is the next level up, and this ratio would be used for making a pavement. This requires 1 part cement, 2 parts sand, and 3 parts aggregates.
How to Mix Concrete By Hand
The first step to mixing your own concrete is to get together all your equipment and ingredients. We’re going to explain how to do this using a wheelbarrow to mix the concrete. You may be using a large tub or something else to mix your concrete, and that’s fine. To make it easier for everyone, we’ll be referring just to a wheelbarrow throughout.
Ensure that your wheelbarrow is placed somewhere so that it’s supported. It’s possible to use your knee while you’re mixing the concrete, but this can be difficult.
Propping it against something or asking someone to steady it for you is a good idea. You should also lay the tarpaulin sheet underneath the wheelbarrow so that the mix doesn’t get on the floor.
Pour the cement mix into the wheelbarrow. If you’ve purchased a ready-made cement mix that already contains aggregates, then you can move onto the next step. If you’re mixing your own cement, then you need to use the ratios, as explained in the previous section.
Now it’s time to add water to the cement. You never want to add too much water right away. That will end up ruining your concrete before you’ve got started. There should be information on the cement mix that will tell you what the ideal amounts of water to add are.
Start slow, then keep mixing the mixture with the shovel. Only add water if the mix has soaked up all the water. This may take a little while. So continue mixing the water and cement until before you start adding any extra water.
Keep mixing. Make sure that the mixed concrete is thick. The last thing you want is soupy, wet mixed concrete. Take it slow. Mix, add a small amount of water, then continue to mix. You also want to make sure the concrete doesn’t look too dry.
If it resembles sand after a spot of rain, then it’s too dry. To test if your mixed concrete is the optimum cement mix, then you can try shoveling it away from the centre of the wheelbarrow. This will make a square in the centre.
The walls of the square should stay where they are, but this will happen if the mixed concrete is too dry too. So check if there is a shininess to the concrete too. If so, then you’ve got the perfect concrete mix to use.
What to do After You’ve Finish Mixing Concrete
You want to clean everything up as soon as possible. If you let the concrete set on your wheelbarrow or shovel, then they could be ruined permanently. It’s best to use the concrete mixture as soon as possible.
Then you want to clean everything up. That’s where the brush comes in. You need to scrub everything properly so that there are no remains of the concrete. You may also want to brush up sand or cement mix if it’s gone everywhere.
Sand is one of those things that if you don’t brush it up properly, it will keep on turning up. We’ve all been to the beach in summer, then come home without cleaning everything up properly, to find sand in our things for the rest of the year. Ensure this doesn’t happen with a suitable cleaning method after you’ve completed mixing your concrete.
How to Mix Concrete With a Cement Mixer
It’s quite simple to use a cement mixer. Before you can use it, however, you’ll want to ensure that it’s put in the right spot. Stability is the most important thing about positioning it. You don’t want it falling over while you’re using it.
You also want to ensure that you place it close enough to where you’re working. Even if you intend to transport the concrete from the cement mixer to where you’re working with a wheelbarrow, you still want to minimise how far you have to push the wheelbarrow.
First, you want to put water into the mixer. Check on the back of your concrete mix as to how much water is required, and then put a little bit less in, as you always want to be able to add more water rather than have put too much in, because then there’s no going back.
Next, you want to add the cement mix. Be careful as you do this, as the cement mix can go everywhere, so you want to have your safety goggles on to protect your eyes too.
Once both elements of the mix are inside the mixer, it’s time to start mixing. Turn it on. And now it should provide you will a good-quality concrete mix.
Once you’ve finished with the mixer, then you’ll need to give it a clean. The most common method is by using sand, aggregators (stones), and water. You want to pop the water, sand, and aggregators into the drum, then turn the drum on, and leave it to mix for a couple of minutes. This is the best way of cleaning it up.
Is it Better to Mix Concrete by Hand or by Using a Cement Mixer?
Many people find that they have more control over the mix when they’re doing it by hand in a wheelbarrow, for example, as they can see exactly how the water is absorbed, and then don’t need to worry about adding too much.
Of course, this is also possible with a mixer. And a mixer is undoubtedly less strenuous. You can simply throw the cement, aggregators, and water into the mixer and let it work for you. But it comes at a cost, of course. That price is worth paying if you’re planning on making a lot of concrete.
It’s possible to find affordable cement mixers that you can rent for a day at a time, and this is worth considering if you don’t want to spend hours mixing concrete. Then again, if you’re just mixing a small amount of concrete, and it’s just for a single job, then there’s nothing wrong with doing it yourself in a wheelbarrow.
That’s it. Now you’re ready to mix concrete at home. The key areas to focus on are getting the right materials and tools, including safety equipment, so that you can mix concrete safely. You also want to ensure that you follow the instructions carefully so that you don’t end up with soupy, useless concrete.
Follow this guide carefully, and you’ll find out just how easy it can be to mix concrete at home, whether that’s by hand or by using a cement mixer.